CBS Chicago’s Zak Spector Talks Local Television Changes during the Pandemic

Local TV stations everywhere are into the thick of it with November Sweeps. And just like every other industry, local television has been drastically changed by the pandemic, push for streaming and constant conversations on social media. No one has seen the landscape change more than CBS Chicago’s Zak Spector. He’s been a photographer, reporter, anchor, producer and has done it all for the last 20 years.

In this episode of #Storyteller, Zak shares invaluable insight into how local TV is adapting, changing and working harder than ever to give critical storytelling to their viewers.

On using Tagboard to integrate social media into broadcasts:

“When we first started integrating social media into news, there was this notion that we would do our newscast like we would always do our newscast, and then, “Oh by the way, we can show a tweet.” We can show what people say after the fact. But the ability to have Tagboard integrates so well with our on-air product that it almost becomes part of the planning and the conversation beforehand. It becomes the way we cover something because we know that we’ll be integrating Tagboard in the product itself and into the show itself. And we’re also able to have people’s posts on right away. Immediately. We don’t have to worry about talking with some newsmaker and then finding reaction, we know we’re going to get it.”

On the evolution of producing local news for televisions vs. screens:

“We stopped thinking of ourselves as a television station and started thinking of ourselves as content generators. We are getting your information. We are getting your videos, we are getting your interviews. We are getting your graphics to make it all make sense. How you get it from us? Well we have a ton of different ways. We will meet you where you are. The channels are all blending together. I’ve talked with the Millennials, the Gen Z… They’ll tell us, I don’t have a TV. And I said, “How do you watch TV?” And they said, “Well, I put it on my computer.” And I said, “Well, that’s your TV, isn’t it?” Now the word, “TV” is meaningless because it’s just a screen. So when you start thinking about that, you start to forget about the piece of plastic and glass that this is going to be on, because it’s going to be everywhere.”

On his best advice for those starting in the broadcast industry:

“As with a lot of things in life, work on yourself and your own skills and then you’ll be successful wherever you apply it. Work on how you react, how you perceiving things, how you perceive news. I think when you start in the business, you start by saying, “Well someone told me I should be doing this.” If you work on yourself, if you hone your skills and your temperament and your personality and how you react to things, you’ll be successful and you’ll stick around for a long time.”